This abridged lexicon explains some of the terms and concepts relevant to the study of hope, optimism, and related states. (Thanks to our research assistants Jonathan Vance and Jeff Snapper for help in generating this resource.)


ASQ: Attributional Style Questionnaire (developed to measure ATTRIBUTIONAL-EXPLANATORY STYLE OPTIMISM) (Peterson et al., 1982)

ATTRIBUTIONAL-EXPLANATORY STYLE OPTIMISM: explanation of negative events in terms of external, unstable and specific causes and explanation of positive events in terms of internal, stable, global causes


  • Big Optimism 1: an attitude towards progress and the general advancement of humanity (Bennett 2011a)
  • Big Optimism 2: an intellectual optimism projected onto a large canvas (Bennett 2011a)
  • Big Optimism 3: larger and less specific expectations than those of LITTLE OPTIMISM (Peterson 2000)

CROSS-SECTIONAL STUDY: measures different groups in a sample who differ according to the target variable


  • Dispositional Optimism 1: a stable expectation that good things will happen (Andersson 2012)
  • Dispositional Optimism 2: a personality variable, relatively stable across time and context, whose defining characteristic is an expectation that good things rather than bad will generally happen (Scheier and Carver 1992)

EASQ: Expanded Attributional Style Questionnaire (Peterson & Villanova, 1988)

END OF THE STORY OPTIMISM: optimism about the way the story of life (or one’s life) will end (Bassett et al. 2008)

EXPLANATORY STYLE OPTIMISM: how people typically explain negative events – explanation of negative events in terms of causal factors that are external to the person, unstable, and specific (Buchanan and Seligman 1995)

HERE AND NOW OPTIMISM: optimism about states of affairs within a more tightly circumscribed temporal horizon (e.g., about matters right now or tomorrow or the next day) (Bassett et al. 2008)


  • Hope 1: Hope most generally refers to a desire for positive futures that are considered possible, either theoretically or in practice, but not guaranteed. (Amsler 2007).
  • Hope 2: a future-directed, four-channel emotion network, constructed from biological, psychological, and social resources. The four constituent channels are the mastery, attachment, survival, and spiritual systems (or subnetworks). The hope network is designed to regulate these systems via both feed-forward (expansion) and feedback processes (maintenance) that generate a greater perceived probability of power and presence as well as protection and liberation. (Scioli et al. 2011).
  • Hope 3: a thinking process that involves an agency and pathways for one’s goals (Snyder et al. 1997)
  • Hope (as Anticipation) (HA): Hope is a state of being characterized by an anticipation for a continued good state, an improved state, or a release from a perceived entrapment. The anticipation may or may not be founded on concrete, real world evidence…Hope is an anticipation of a future which is good and is based upon: mutuality (relationships with others), a sense of personal competence, coping ability, psychological well-being, purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of ‘the possible. (Miller, 1986; Miller, 2000)
  • Hope (as Belief + Desire) (HBD)
    • HBD 1: Hope is that general tendency to construct and respond to the perceived future positive. The hopeful person subjectively assesses what is desired for the future to be probable or important as to constrain belief and behaviour to be grounded upon its possibility. (Nunn, 1996; cf. Nunn et al., 1996)
    • HBD 2: To hope is to believe that something positive, which does not presently apply to one's life, could still materialize, and so we yearn for it. Although desire (or motivation) is an essential feature, hope is much more than this because it requires the belief in the possibility of a favorable outcome, which gives hope a cognitive aspect and distinguishes it from the concept of motivation, per se. (Lazarus, 1999)
  • Hope (as a Complex, Goal-Directed Threat Response): [H]ope is a response to a threat that results in the setting of a desired goal; the awareness of the cost of not achieving the goal; the planning to make the goal a reality; the assessment, selection, and use of all internal and external resources and supports that will assist in achieving the goal; and the re-evaluation and revision of the plan while enduring, working, and striving to reach the desired goal. (Morse & Doberneck, 1995)
  • Hope (as an Emotion): Hope is an emotion that occurs when an individual is focused on an important positive future outcome. (P. Bruininks and B. Malle, 2005)
  • Hope (as an Energized Mental State) (HEMS)
    • HEMS 1: Hope is an energized mental state characterized by an action-oriented, positive expectation that goals or needs for self and future are obtainable, and that the present state of situation is temporary. (Stotland, 1969; cited in Stoner, 2003)
    • HEMS 2: Hope is an energized mental state involving feelings of uneasiness or uncertainty and characterized by a cognitive, action-oriented expectation that a positive future goal or outcome is possible. (Haase et al., 1992)
  • Hope (as Expectation): Hope [is] a subtle, if not unconscious, expectation regarding an abstract but positive aspect of the future. (Stoner, 2003)
  • Hope (as a Multi-Faceted Process or Act): Hope constitutes a delicate balance of experiencing the pain of difficult life experiences, sensing an interconnectedness with others, drawing upon one’s spiritual or transcendent nature, and maintaining a rational or mindful approach for responding to these life experiences. (Farran et al., 1995)
  • Hope (as a Psychological Process Aimed at Transcendence): the process through which a person works to emerge from the life situation at hand towards a resultant state of transcendence, labeled the reformulated self and becomes a person with re-evaluated priorities and new life perspectives (Morse & Penrod, 1999)
  • Hope (as a Source of Motivation and Coping): Hope is an essential ingredient that supplies the incentive to rise in the morning and look forward to the new day regardless of the circumstances, the [subject’s] physical difficulties, or the emotional pain. (Bunston et al., 1996)
  • Hope (as State of Mind Characterized by Its Origins): Hope is a positive state of mind which results from the positive outcome of ego strength, perceived human family support, religion, education, and economic assets. (Obayuwana et al., 1982; cited in Stoner, 2003)
  • Hope (as a Transcendent Power or Process) (HTPP)
    • HTPP 1: an inner power directed toward a new awareness and enrichment of ‘being’ rather than rational expectations (Herth, 1990)
    • HTPP 2: an inner power that facilitates the transcendence of the present situation and enables a reality-based expectation of a brighter tomorrow for self and/or others (Herth, 1993; this ‘definition’ is endorsed by Bays, 2001)
  • Hope (as Movement or Tendency of an Appetite—Aquinas): Hope is a movement of appetite aroused by the perception of what is agreeable, future, arduous, and possible of attainment. It is the tendency of an appetite towards this sort of object.
  • Hope (as an Appetite—Hobbes): Hope is an appetite, with an opinion of attaining.
  • Hope (as a Pleasure—Spinoza): Hope is just an inconstant pleasure that has arisen from the image of a future or past event whose outcome we doubt.
  • Hope (as a Pleasure—Locke): Hope is that pleasure of the mind, which every one finds in himself upon the thought of a probably future enjoyment of a thing which is apt to delight him.
  • Hope (as a Direct Passion—Hume): When either good or evil is uncertain, it gives rise to fear or hope, according to the degrees of uncertainty on the one side or the other.
  • Hope (as a Propositional Attitude, but not an Emotion)
    • J.P. Day: S hopes that p iff S desires that p and S believes that the probability of p is between 0 and 1, exclusive.
    • T. Govier: We hope for an outcome when we want it, think it possible and have positive expectations about it.
  • Hope (as an Attitude Toward a State of the World—Luc Bovens): S hopes at t for a state of the world E iff (i) at t, S is not confident that E will happen, (ii) at t, S is not confident that E will not happen, (iii) at t, S desires that E will happen, (iv) S engages in some mental imaging of E at some time or other (it need not be at t).
  • Hope (as an Attitude—M. Miceli and C. Castelfranchi): S hopes that p iff S believes that it is possible that p, S is uncertain whether it will be the case that p, S does not believe that p is more probable than p, and S wishes that p.
  • Hope (Adrienne Martin): endorsed desire plus uncertainty
  • Hope (as a Propositional Attitude—A. Meirav): S hopes that p iff S resignatively desires that p, S believes that it is in some degree probable that p, and S views the relevant external factor(s) as like someone who (with regard to the object of hope) to a substantial degree, can benefit S, wants to benefit S, and knows how to do so.
  • Hope (as a Propositional Attitude—P. Pettit): S substantively hopes that p iff S desires that p, S believes that the probability of p is between 0 and 1 exclusive, and S acts as if p is going to obtain or has a good chance of obtaining.
  • Hope (as an Emotion—V. McGeer): S hopes that p iff S desires that p, is uncertain whether p will obtain, and is agentially invested in p’s obtaining.


  • Little Optimism 1: the expression of personal hopes and desires (Bennett 2011a)
  • Little Optimism 2: specific expectations about positive outcomes (e.g., I will get an A on my term paper) (Peterson 2000)

LONGITUDINAL STUDY: measures the change in a variable over time within a single sample group

LOT: Life Orientation Test (developed to assess individual differences in generalized optimism versus pessimism)

LOT-R: Life Orientation Test-Revised (successor to the LOT, and which focused more carefully on expectations for the future/developed to measure DISPOSITIONAL OPTIMISM 2)

OBJECTIVE MEASURES OF PHYSICAL HEALTH: includes survival, mortality, immune function, cardiovascular outcomes, cancer outcomes, and pregnancy outcomes (Rasmussen et al. 2009)


  • Optimism 1: a mood or attitude associated with an expectation about the social or material future—one which the evaluator regards as socially desirable, to his [or her] advantage, or for his [or her] pleasure (Tiger, 1979)
  • Optimism 2: a particular mode of viewing the future (Bennett 2011a)
  • Optimism 3: a tendency to hold positive expectations of the future (Bennett 2011b)
  • Optimism 4: not “cold-cognition,” but has distinct emotional and motivational components (Peterson 2000)
  • Optimism 5: includes a normative/evaluative component which precludes there being a single, objective optimism. That for which person A is optimistic might cause person B to be pessimistic (Peterson 2000)
  • Optimism 6: expresses probability – the belief that the anticipated future is more likely than not to materialize (Bennett 2011a, p. 303)


  • Optimism Bias 1: a tendency to underestimate the likelihood of negative events and overestimate the likelihood of positive events
  • Optimism Bias 2: a tendency to have a lower estimate of the likelihood of future negative events than their actuarial likelihood and a tendency to have a higher estimate of the likelihood of future positive events than their actuarial likelihood
  • Optimism Bias 3: a tendency to have a lower estimate of the likelihood of future negative events than their actuarial likelihood
  • Optimism Bias 4: a lower estimation of the likelihood of future negative events than their actuarial likelihood (and a higher estimation of the likelihood of future positive events than their actuarial likelihood)
  • Optimism Bias 5: optimistic predictions (see: OPTIMISTIC PREDICTION) that are favorable relative to some contrast item or class of items
  • Evidence-Relative Optimism Bias: optimistic prediction favorable relative to a subject’s (total) evidence at the time of prediction (e.g., a subject predicts that a task will take her one day to complete, but her (total) evidence indicates that it will take two)
  • General Optimism Bias: predictions that one’s prospects are generally favorable
  • Interpersonal-Relative Optimism Bias: optimistic prediction favorable relative to a subject’s predictions for (average) outcomes for other people (e.g., a subject predicts that a task will take her one day to complete and also predicts that, on average, it will take others two days)
  • Outcome-Relative Optimism Bias: optimistic prediction favorable relative to an actual outcome (e.g., a subject predicts that a task will take her one day to complete but it actually takes two)
  • Specific Optimism Bias: prediction that a (perceived to be) good token event will (or is likely to) occur.

OPTIMISM OF EVERYDAY LIFE: a tendency to hold positive expectations about the future (Bennett 2011b)

OPTIMISTIC PREDICTION: prediction that a (perceived to be) good event will occur

PRIVATE OPTIMISM: an individual characteristic (Peterson 2000)

PROSPECTIVE STUDY: [A] prospective study [is] a form of longitudinal study that assesses the associations between a predictor at one point in time and an outcome at a later point, controlling for the association between predictor and outcome at baseline (Rasmussen et al. 2009)

PUBLIC OPTIMISM: an interpersonal characteristic that is socially communicated (Peterson 2000)

REPRESENTATIVENESS HEURISTIC: a type of mental shortcut where we tend to judge the likelihood of an event by how well it matches our existing prototypes of such events. When an object or event seems more representative, we tend to judge it as more likely or probable

SITUATED OPTIMISM: optimistic prediction that a (perceived to be) good event will occur (Armor and Taylor 2002)

SUBJECTIVE MEASURES OF PHYSICAL HEALTH: includes self-report of physical well-being and symptoms (Rasmussen et al. 2009)

UNREALISTIC OPTIMISM: perceiving that one’s chances of experiencing a negative event are lower than they actually are (Bassett et al. 2008)


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